Passengers expect little from airline food, with the cuisine so maligned it is often reduced to a punchline. Still, while frequent flyers hold out little hope for much in the way of flavor, at the very least they expect their in-flight meals to be safe. After a contaminant was detected in the kitchen of one of the busiest airports in the United States, one airline set itself apart by taking swift, if extreme, action to protect its passengers.
During a routine health and safety check this week, officials at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) detected the presence of listeria in the facilities of Gate Gourmet, a caterer for at least half a dozen of the airport’s carriers. While inspections did not indicate that food meant for in-flight meals had been contaminated, nor that the bacteria was present in food prep areas, American Airlines alone decided the risk was too great and suspended any and all food deliveries from the contaminated kitchen to its remaining scheduled flights that day.
The carrier uses Gate Gourmet as a caterer within other terminals across the country, but limited the defensive move to LAX. American Airlines has discontinued meals from Gate Gourmet through til next week and is rapidly contacting passengers to alert them to the change. Delta, Fiji, Air Lingus, Virgin Australia, Iberia, Virgin Atlantic, and Level elected to continue using meals provided by Gate Gourmet, though no official word has come from these carriers regarding this decision. The caterer in question performed a deep clean of the areas identified to contain the bacteria but otherwise continued business as usual.
Fortunately for passengers, no cases of infection have thus far been reported.
Listeria is a dangerous bacteria that can cling to unwashed meat and vegetables or poorly maintained counter surfaces. With a mortality rate of nearly 20 percent, typical cases cause intense diarrhea, vomiting, and fever, leaving patients dehydrated. American Airline’s response is not limited to just canceling meals. The carrier is also issuing vouchers to passengers affected by the decision. In the meantime AA is resourcing replacement caterers to service flights until the issue is resolved. There has been no word on how the incident will impact American Airline’s relationship with Gate Gourmet in the future, though given that meals from the caterer at other terminals were not canceled, it is unlikely that AA will drop the company as a meal provider any time soon.